I'm not entirely sure how to word this, but what is the largest set of one syllable words you can find in which every phonetic sound is the same except the vowel? For example, 'arc', 'orc', and 'irk' are a 3 word set in which each word is pronounced _rk with the _ replaced by ä, ô, and ə, respectively. Vowel combinations and diphthongs are allowed, but not adding more vowels in a different place is not. For example, 'orca' does not fit into the above set and neither does 'park'.

I came up with a set containing at least four or five words, but I'm hoping you all can find more

Words are considered valid if they are contained in the OED. Acronyms do not count.

I realize that I wasn't quite clear earlier about what constitutes a valid answer. What we're really looking for here is a set of words whose phonetic spellings are the same except for their phonetic vowel or vowels. So in my earlier example of cute, cut, kite, etc. 'cute' should probably be disqualified because it is pronounced 'kjut' where j is considered a phonetic consonant according to the OED list of phonetic letters.

Also, words like 'bird' are acceptable in the same list as 'bed' if you specify that they are being pronounced 'bəːd' (the English way) not 'bərd'(the American way) I wasn't going to include those, but I changed my mind, sorry @RosieF, you were right.

Homophones only count as one word, so 'cote' and 'coat' are only one word since they are both pronounced 'kəʊt'.

If you feel like two words are pronounced differently, but I or someone else disagrees with you, see if you can find two separate phonetic spellings to justify your point.

  • $\begingroup$ You might want to define what is considered a valid "word". e.g. Is it anything found on dictionary.com? Are proper nouns allowed? Acronyms? Abbreviations? Prefixes/Suffixes? $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ you could use a tool like RhymeZone (example for ark) to get such lists $\endgroup$ – Ciprian Tomoiagă Oct 18 '16 at 13:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It would help if you could further define what is acceptable. Are homophones (e.g. so / sew) considered separate words? Are words containing an unpronounced R in certain dialects (e.g. bard) considered to have the same consonant phonemes as those without (e.g. bad)? Are proper nouns acceptable (e.g. Tet, Kate)? $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 18 '16 at 18:41

12 Answers 12


bead, bid, bed, bad, baaed (what the sheep did), bard, bod, bud (both Northern and Southern English pronunciations), booed, bird, bayed, buoyed, bored, board, bawd, baud (if pronounced with an accurate French vowel as in "eau", rather than an English one as in "owe"), bode, bowed (made a bowing gesture), bide, beard, bared.

That is $21$

Some of these will sound the same in some accents, but in others they will sound different.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ while buoyed is acceptable, bard, bored, board, bird, and bared are not, because of the extra consonant sound. An R is not a vowel! $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Oct 17 '16 at 20:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MMAdams In most British English variants, the "r" sound is not pronounced. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 21:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MMAdams: anyway, this is at least 12: bad, bid, bed, bud, bead, booed, bode, bayed, bawd, baaed, bide, bowed. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Oct 17 '16 at 21:32

A (now less) sweet set
these should comply with the newly provided rules:

 IPA    oxford  word   (notes: url)
/sæt/   /sat/   sat
/sɛt/   /sɛt/   set
/sɪt/   /sɪt/   sit
/sɒt/   /sɒt/   sot
/sɑt/   /sɑːt/  sot    (british, old-fashioned:  http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/sot)
/seɪt/  /seɪt/  sate
/sit/   /siːt/  seat
/saɪt/  /sʌɪt/  site
/sut/   /suːt/  suit
/sɔt/   /sɔːt/  sought
/sʊt/   /sʊt/   soot
/sət/   /səːt/  cert   (british: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cert)
/sɜt/   /sɜːt/  cert   (british: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cert)

for a total of $\large13$ with no homophones

  • $\begingroup$ Are sweat, swat, suet, suite pronounced as monosyllables with diphthongs in any accent? $\endgroup$ – Rosie F Oct 18 '16 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ Sweat and suite are (I pronounce both as such). I pronounce suet as two syllables and swat might not count for the added 'w' $\endgroup$ – Ax. Oct 18 '16 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ removed sweat, swat and suite as they use IPA w which is a consonant, and suet as it is considered two syllables. removed the homophones. added British pronunciations of a couple of words containing "r", as they're permissible provided the British pronunciations aren't homophones of other words. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Oct 19 '16 at 2:59

As a start, how about

pat, pet, pit, pot, put, peat, pate, putt

There may be more as well; that was just off the top of my head.

Additions from others:

  • pout (MMAdams)

Count so far: $\large9$

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ what about "pout"? $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Oct 17 '16 at 20:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ would you count 'poot' ? $\endgroup$ – Justin L. Oct 17 '16 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ "part", "pert" and "port", if we're speaking British English and not pronouncing the 'r'. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Oct 18 '16 at 14:44

After the rule clarification I'm down to $\large13$ or $\large16$:

13 definites:

3 more that are actually two syllables (but maybe still qualify?):

I've had to discard the rest:

I've not counted these as I find a pronunciation for these from a reputable source without the 'r':

Not sure how this one is pronounced!

  • $\begingroup$ note, all sets of homophones now count as just one entry, which disqualifies several of your words. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Oct 19 '16 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ puzzle title says "One syllable words" so I'm pretty sure two syllable words are out. :) i dropped mine from my answer as well. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Oct 19 '16 at 4:40

Here's a set of 11

mat met mit motte mutt mate meet might (or mite) mote (or moat) mute moot



tan, ten, tin, ton, tun
ta'en, tain, taine
tonne, toon, town
tuan, tune

  • $\begingroup$ note, all sets of homophones now count as just one entry, which disqualifies some of your words. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Oct 19 '16 at 3:05

Another set:

Big, bog, bug, bag, beg, biog

There are probably more, got $6$ so far...

  • $\begingroup$ brig and brag don't count; they are adding another consonant sound. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain aaahh didn't read the question properly :( $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Oct 17 '16 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it's regional, but biog would be two syllables for me. $\endgroup$ – Phlarx Oct 17 '16 at 22:20

tat, tit, tot/taut/taught, tut, teat, tight, tote, toot, tout

Not sure if homophones count as separate words. These also might not be homophones depending on where you live. (I am Canadian. In the UK, I think taught/tote would be homophones.)

This is either $\large9$ or $\large11$.

  • $\begingroup$ tet (Vietnamese New Year), tart, tate (a small portion or a pinch). $\endgroup$ – Rosie F Oct 17 '16 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ @RosieF tart adds an extra consonant sound. The other two are proper nouns; not sure if they're allowed. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ For some speakers, perhaps, but not for all! And taught/tote are homophones only for a minority of speakers: Wikipedia says "The THOUGHT–GOAT merger is a merger of the English vowels /ɔː/ and /oʊ/ that occurs in many female speakers of Geordie.[24] It has also been reported as a possibility in some Northern Welsh accents." ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ) $\endgroup$ – Rosie F Oct 17 '16 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @RosieF I think what we've determined is that this puzzle can have different solutions depending on one's regional accent. Perhaps there are places where tot/taut/taught/tote have four distinct pronunciations... $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 21:14

10 (so far)

nat, net, neat, nit, nite, night not, note, nowt nut


Set of $8$

So, saw, see, sea, sew, say, sigh, sow....


@GentlePurpleRain already has a better answer than my original one, which is

cut, cat, kite, and cot.

Additions from others

kit, cote, coot (GentlePurpleRain)

Total Count: 8

  • $\begingroup$ You could add kit, cote, coot... $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 20:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Caught, cart. Yes, R isn't a vowel, but so what? neither are G or H. Not sure if "cute" qualifies -- does the y-sound disqualify it? (And if in some accent there is no y-sound, it is a homophone of coot anyway.) $\endgroup$ – Rosie F Oct 17 '16 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ @rosieF 'caught' and 'cot' are the same, which is why I didn't include 'coat' either, it is a homophone of 'cote' and 'cart' has a pronounced r. I'm sorry, but I'm american and I am disallowing Rs because to me that makes no sense. $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Oct 17 '16 at 21:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MMAdams: "caught" and "cot" are not the same for many English speakers. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Oct 17 '16 at 21:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @sumelic In fact, there is something in linguistics called the cot/caught merger that classifies speakers based on whether they pronounce these two words the same or differently. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 17 '16 at 21:58

Following the new rules, I think I can get $19$

a (/æ/ and /ˈeɪ/)
ah (/ɑː/)
aargh (/ˈä/)
awe (/ɔː/)
e (/iː/)
ear (in some accents, /ɪəː/)
err (/əː/)
ew (/ˈɪəuː/ or /ˈiːuː/)
I (/aɪ/)
oar (/ɔəː/)
o' (/ə/)
oh (/oʊ/)
oi (/ɔɪ/)
ooh (/uː/)
ow (/aʊ/)
ugh (/ʊh/ and /ʌh/)


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.